Writer: Mariajose de Jesús Castillo Cervantes
Editors: Adelyne Koe, Renata Daou
Graphic Designer: Heidi Wong
Thanks to the creation of international organizations, today, all State members of various international treaties are required to protect and guarantee the human rights of their entire population. It is the obligation of each State to act as the ultimate defender of the rights of each citizen, and to punish those who violate the rights of others. But what happens when the State becomes the one that oppresses and violates the rights of its citizens? In countries like Mexico, it is not uncommon to have cases where the State or the government acts as an oppressor. There have been several occasions such as "October 2", the treatment of the State towards the journalist and writer Lydia Cacho, the Radilla Pacheco case, and, one of the most recent ones, the case of "the 43 from Ayotzinapa."
Eight years ago in the month of September, in the city of Iguala Guerrero in Mexico, several students between ages 17 and 25 years old from the Normal Rural School Raul Isido Burgos of Ayotzinapa planned to "hijack" buses to attend the commemoration of the student massacre of October 2nd in Mexico City. The takeover of buses for the commemoration of October 2 was not a new behavior in Guerrero–it was something that had been going on for some years, and several companies and authorities even granted permits to attend the commemoration. But in 2014, the authorities had an unexpected response against the students.
On the night of September 26th of this year, the municipal authorities attacked the students with firearms to prevent the buses they were on from leaving the city. Of the various buses that were attacked, "six people were executed, forty were wounded, 80 people suffered persecution" and 43 students were detained and disappeared. But the aggressions of that night did not end there; civilians participated in committing attacks against the general citizenry that were later shown to be “part of the structure of a criminal organization intertwined with the state authorities." But not only the students involved were victims; approximately 700 relatives of the 43 missing students ’till this day have been fighting the Mexican government for answers as to their whereabouts.
Because the State was involved in the disappearance, it has made the investigation of this case impossible, and to this day, no answer has been given to the families or the Mexican people. Several hypotheses have been created, trying to justify the behavior of the authorities, such as the transport of narcotics in the buses taken by the students, but none have been able to prove the existence of illegal substances in the students' transportation.
In the year of the disappearance Mexico’s former president, Enrique Peña Nieto and his government claimed that the students were detained by policemen in collusion with criminals of the "Guerreros Unidos" group, since it was believed that the students were members of the rival gang "Los Rojos." Members of the “Guerreros Unidos” were tortured to testify about what happened on the night of September 26, where they revealed that they transferred the students in trucks to a municipal garbage dump. When they arrived at their destination, they mentioned that 15 of the students died of asphyxiation and the others were shot at the back of the head. Towards the end, they mentioned that they were thrown in the dump and incinerated, to which later the criminals gathered their ashes in bags and threw them into the river.
Why was this declaration not accepted by the Mexican families and people? Several studies and reports given by institutions such as the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts mention that a calcination of this magnitude is "scientifically impossible". It is estimated that if this were true, around 30,000 kilos of wood or more than 13,000 tires must have been used and the fire would have lasted 60 continuous hours.
8 years have passed without any answer being given to the families. But information has recently come out proving that indeed it was the State. The aforementioned Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) has provided information provided by the Semar (Secretary of the Navy) and the National Intelligence Center. The new information includes recordings taken by a drone showing members of the Attorney General's Office and the Navy altering the Cocula dumpsite, where the bodies of the students were said to have been deposited. Likewise, it is now known thanks to the GIEI that "the municipal, state and federal authorities knew exactly what was happening at the exact time of the attacks", and that they have carried out their own investigations and have kept them hidden for their own good.
Human rights violations are extremely dangerous since they violate the integrity of human beings, but are even more so when they are in the hands of the State as they leave society unprotected. Mexican society and families who until this day continue to suffer the loss of their loved ones deserve explanations and reparations for the damages that these human rights violations, specifically the right to life, have caused them. In countries like Mexico, the sad reality is that the State does not protect its citizens, so the citizens are the ones who unite to protect each other.